Visakhapatnam is port city on the southest coast of India in the state of Andhra Pradesh and also known as “the Jewel of the East Coast. The area occupied by this place is 681,96 sq kilometers with a population of 2,091,811. Visakhapatnam also known as Vizag and the third largest city on the east coast of India. It is located 625 kilometers east of the state capital Hyderabad. The city is riched and blessed with heavy industries and a steel plant and has oldest shipyard.

History

Visakhapatnam was ruled by King Hari Shanker before it was part of the Kalinga Kingdom uner Aashoka ‘s rule in 260 Bc , and until the 6 th century AD it was part of the Utkala Kingdom.Later it was taken by the Andhra Kings of Vengi, Reddy and after that to the Pallavas.the city was named after Sri Vishaka Sakhi. Legend has it that Radha and Vishaka were born on the same day and were equally beautiful. Sri Vishaka Sakhi , is the second most important gopi of the eight main gopis.She carries messages between Radha and Krishna, and is the most gopi messenger. . Local residents believe that an Andhra king built a temple to pay homage to his family deity Viśakha. This is now inundated under sea water near R K Beach. Another theory is that it is named after a women disciple of Buddha named Viśakha.Later it was ruled by Qutb Shahis, Mughal Empire (between 1689–1724), Nizam (1724–1757) and France (1757–1765) before being captured by the British in 1765.

Buddhist influence

Hindu texts state that during the fifth century BC, the Visakhapatnam region was part of Kalinga territory, which extended to the Godavari River. Relics found in the area also prove the existence of a Buddhist empire in the region. Kalinga later lost the territory to King Ashoka in the bloodiest battle of its time, which prompted Ashoka to embrace Buddhism. Visakhapatnam is surrounded by ancient Buddhist sites, most of which have been excavated recently and illustrate the legacy of Buddhism in the area.

Pavurallakond

Pavurallakond (“pigeon hill”) is a hillock west of Bhimli, about 24 km (15 mi) from Visakhapatnam. The Buddhist settlement found here is estimated to date back from the first century BC to the second century AD. On the hillock (which overlooks the coastline) are 16 rock-cut cisterns for collecting rainwater. Gopalapatnam, on the Tandava River, is a village surrounded by brick stupas, viharas, pottery and other Buddhist artifacts.

Sankaram

In 1907 British archaeologist Alexander Rea unearthed Sankaram, a 2,000-year-old Buddhist site. The name “Åšankaram” derives from the Sangharama (temple or monastery). Located 40 km (25 mi) south of Visakhapatnam, it is known locally as Bojjannakonda and is a significant Buddhist site in Andhra Pradesh. The three major schools of Buddhism (Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) flourished here. The complex is known for its monolithic stupas, rock-cut caves and brick structures. The primary stupa was initially carved out of rock and covered with bricks. Excavations yielded historic pottery and Satavahana coins from the first century AD. At Lingalakonda, there are also rock-cut monolithic stupas in rows spread over the hill. The vihara was active for about 1,000 years.

 Stone seated Buddha at Bojjannakonda near Anakapalle

Nearby is another Buddhist site, Bojjannakonda, with a number of images of the Buddha carved on the rock face of the caves. At Ligalametta there are hundreds of rock-cut monolithic stupas in rows, spread across the hill. Among other Buddhist attractions are a relic casket, three chiatya halls,votive platforms, stupas and Vajrayana sculptures.

Bavikonda

Bavikonda is an important Buddhist heritage site located on a hill about 15 km, northeast from Visakhapatnam city. Here the Buddhist habitation is noticed on a 16 ha flat terraced area. The Hinayana school of Buddhism was practised at the monastery between the 3rd century B.C. and the 3rd century A.D. Bavikonda has remains of an entire Buddhist complex, comprising 26 structures belonging to three phases. A piece of bone stored in an urn recovered here is believed to belong to the mortal remains of the Budda. The word Bavikonda in Telugu means “a hill of wells”. Fitting its name, Bavikonda is a hill with wells for the collection of rainwater. It is located 15 km (9.3 mi) from Visakhapatnam and is a significant Buddhist site. Excavation carried out from 1982–1987 revealed a Buddhist establishment including a mahachaitya embedded with relic caskets,a large vihara complex, numerous votive stupas, a stone-pillared congregation and rectangular halls and a refectory. Artifacts recovered from the site include Roman and Satavahana coins and pottery dating from the third century BC to the second century AD. A significant finding was a piece of bone (with a large quantity of ash) in an urn, which is believed to be the remains of the Buddha. The Bavikonda site is considered one of the oldest Buddhist sites in Asia. It is a reminder of the Buddhist civilisation which once existed in southern India, and also reminiscent of Borobudur in Indonesia.

Thotlakonda

About 16 km (9.9 mi) from Visakhapatnam is Thotlakonda, a Buddhist complex situated on top of a hill. The Buddhist Complex on the Mangamaripeta hilltop, locally known as Totlakonda, lies about 16 km from Visakhapatnam on Visakhapatnam-Bheemili Beach Road. After its discovery (during an aerial survey), the Government of A.P. declared the 48 ha site as a protected monument in 1978. Excavations in 1988 to 1992 exposed structural remains and artefacts, classified as Religious, Secular and Civil. These structures include the Stupa, Chaityagrihas, pillared congregation halls, bhandagaras, refectory (bhojanasala), drainage and stone pathways. The site covers an area of 120 acres (49 hectares), and has been declared a protected area by the government of Andhra Pradesh. Excavations have revealed three kinds of structural remains: religious, secular and civil. Structures include a mahastupa, sixteen votive stupas, a stone-pillared congregation hall, eleven rock-cut cisterns, well-paved stone pathways, an apsidal Chaitya -griha, three round chaitgya-grihas, two votive platforms, ten Viharas and a kitchen complex with three halls and a refectory (dining hall). Apart from the structures, Buddhist treasures excavated include nine Satavahana and five Roman silver coins, terracotta tiles, stucco decorative pieces, sculptured panels, miniature stupa models in stone, Buddha Padas depicted with ashtamangal symbols (i.e. the eight auspicious symbols of Swastika, Shrivasta, Nandhyavarta, Vardhamanaka, Bhadrasana, Kalasha, Minyugala and Darpan) and early pottery.

Hinduism is practiced by the majority of its citizens, followed by Islam and Christianity. The area practised Buddhism for two millennia, as evidenced by the many Buddhist Sangharamas in the outlying areas; currently, however, the population of Buddhists has waned. There is little religious tension.